Sunday, 27 April 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Canonisation of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the Second Sunday of Easter, or since a few years ago, we also celebrate the greatness of our Lord’s merciful heart and love for us, in the Feast of the Divine Mercy. We celebrate today not just the joy of Easter and the resurrection of Christ, but the very love and mercy that God had shown us in giving us Jesus to be our Saviour and redeem us from certain death because of sin.

Today we have to reflect on this great mercy God had shown us through Jesus. Without this mercy, mankind would still dwell in darkness of this world and engulfed in sin, and therefore, condemned to damnation with Satan and his fellow fallen angels in the eternal torture of hell, bereft of God’s love and mercy in its entirety, where there is no longer any hope for us.

Instead, God who loves us resolved to let Himself be humiliated, scourged, tortured and mocked for our sake. He let Himself to be wounded and punished with the entirety of the weight of our sins, no matter how heavy they are. For our sins are the wounds that He bear, and His cross is our rebelliousness that He bore for our sake, that we may not suffer the consequences of our sins.

Today we celebrate the rising of two great and yet humble men to the Altar, that is our beloved Popes, the Successors of St. Peter, Blesseds Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. The now Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were great workers of love and mercy, proclaiming to the world the virtues of the Most Divine Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope St. John XXIII was the great proponent and champion of peace, seeking peace in a world beset by conflicts and hatred between one another, building bridges of dialogue and reconciliation where there were anger, hatred and violence. This is one of the great aspect and essence of mercy, showing to the world that we mankind should shun evil and hatred, as well as violence and dispute, in favour of love, forgiveness, cooperation and genuine mercy.

Divine Mercy of our Lord was truly at work, when Pope St. John XXIII carried out his mission as the Successor of St. Peter as the head of the Universal Church. Even in his life prior to his election as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII had been the embodiment of our Lord’s Divine Mercy, by acting in accordance to the Lord’s love, reaching out in particular to those who are bereft and longing for the Lord’s beautiful mercy.

Pope St. John XXIII as Angelo Roncalli prior to his election as Pope was sent as the diplomat of the Holy See, representing the Pope and the Church in various countries where strife was rampant, and divisions were evident among the faithful people of God, as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, he helped to bridge the differences between the faithful belonging to the Church and our separated brethren of the Constantinopolitan communion or the Eastern Orthodox. He helped foster a good relationship among the faithful and did not fear to help out a fellow brethren in need.

In essence, therefore, he had exercised the merciful aspect of the Lord who is the Divine Mercy. Pope St. John XXIII has also emulated the same example of Christ’s mercy by helping the Jews who were hunted down by the NAZIs to be exterminated by working hard to arrange their escape when he was the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, and when a trainload of Jewish exiles attempted to escape death through Turkey.

There were much mercy in this new saint’s actions, and that is why he is today elevated to the glory of the Altar and officially recognised by the Church as a saint worthy of heavenly glory and honour. The other saint elevated today, Pope St. John Paul II whom many if us dearly and fondly remembered as the Pope of our time, also was a great man of mercy and love.

Pope St. John Paul II and his predecessors worked on the vision of a religious sister, who is known now as St. Faustina Kowalska on the Lord as the Divine Mercy. The Lord appeared to St. Faustina Kowalska asking for mankind to repent and change their sinful ways, and cling to His most merciful heart, which became the origin for the devotion towards the Divine Mercy of God, and the origin for today’s celebration on the Feast of the Divine Mercy, which falls on the second Sunday of Easter.

Pope St. John Paul II himself, as many of us know, is a man of great mercy, whose works of love and perseverance for the sake of the faithful is well known throughout the world. When he met an assassination attempt in 1981, on the day of the Feast of our Lady of Fatima, he forgave his to-be-assassin, and visited him in the prison, reconciling himself with the assassin in love.

This is one of the many examples of his acts of mercy, which is firmly founded on the foundations of faith, and his perseverance in fighting for the rights of the faithful against the Communist regime in Poland, his country, was truly remarkable. He did not fight the violence of the atheistic government with violence of his own, even when the people were on his side. He fought for the people with prayers and activism, promoting and championing for the faith through real action firmly grounded on the Christian faith.

Pope St. John Paul II was also well known for his championing of the Universal Call to Holiness, in which the faithful and people of God are encouraged to be models of the faith and walk in a life of holiness, which he helped encourage by the elevation of many holy men and women whose lives had been exemplary to be the role model for the faithful, that is for all of us to follow. These are the examples of the manifestation of the Lord’s love and mercy which came true in the lives of these holy men and women, including that of Popes St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II themselves.

In celebrating the elevation of these two great and yet humble Popes to the holy sainthood, we celebrate together with the entire Church for the propagation of the Lord’s Divine Mercy and love to all the peoples of all the nations, that from today on, through the examples in the lives of these two new saints and countless other holy men and women of God, we may learn of the Lord’s Divine Mercy and understand this great act of mercy.

God did not want us to suffer for the consequences of our sins, which entered our hearts and bodies and minds ever since Adam and Eve our first ancestors disobeyed the Lord and His will. That is why He sent us the greatest gift and help that He can provide us, in Jesus His Son, who suffered in our place, bearing our sins and all their burdens on His shoulders to the cross, where He laid down His own life for us, and by rising from the dead, He gave new hope of a new life to all of us who believe and who are ready to cast away our old lives of sin.

Yet we also have to remember at all times that God hates sin, in all its forms, no matter whether it is a small or a large sin. A sin is still a sin, and it separates us from being able to be perfectly reunited with the Lord who loves us. Sin is the barrier that prevents mankind from being free from the bonds and chains of death, and therefore, it is imperative for us to take the initiative to get rid of our sinfulness.

And the Lord who is also the Divine Mercy as He had revealed to St. Faustina Kowalska, has offered much mercy and opportunity for all of us to repent and turn again towards Him from our past sinful lives. It does not mean that God hates sin then we who have sinned will be condemned to perdition and death. It does not mean that we will be cast into hell immediately for our sins. Mankind are often very aware of their sins, but the danger of this is that because of this awareness, mankind became fearful of God and were afraid to seek God’s forgiveness and therefore fall deeper into sin.

We must not have this mentality or attitude towards God, because we know that the Lord is rich in mercy and slow to anger. Yes, just as much as He is wrathful and hateful against sins that we commit. What matters is for us to open our hearts to Him and allow His mercy to work wonders in us, and allowing His mercy to pierce to the greatest depths of our hearts that He may dwell in us and work His forgiveness in us.

Remember what Pope St. John Paul II had said to us? That we must not be afraid and open the doors wide to the Lord? And yes, therefore, we have to heed the words of this wise saint, and open wide the doors of our hearts to the forgiveness and mercy of God. Do not be afraid indeed, or else God’s mercy and forgiveness will not work its wonders on us, and we will remain in sin.

The problem with many of us and therefore mankind in general is that, not only that we fear the Lord and His wrath, but we also have great pride in us that we do not want to seek the Lord for forgiveness because of our ego. We keep our ego and heads held high, but for what? In the end, keeping our ego and pride will cost us dearly and we may be thrown into hell to suffer for eternity just because we refuse to lower ourselves before the mercy of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we rejoice with the entire Universal Church for the elevation of the two new saints from among our Popes, let us follow their examples and heed their words, that we show mercy in our own actions and open our hearts to the Lord, that His mercy and love may be poured into us, and make us all truly worthy and holy children of His, showing the examples of mercy in all our words, actions and deeds.

O, Pope St. John XXIII, pray and intercede for us that we may be agents of peace in this world, to show love and mercy of God to all through our actions, that may all hatred and violence cease, and that men will be brought closer to God, just as you had once worked hard for the sake of peace and equality for all mankind before God.

O, Pope St. John Paul II, pray and intercede for us that we may have our hearts opened for the Lord to enter, that we will not shut tight our doors before the Lord who knocks daily at them. Pray for us that we will not be afraid to open ourselves for others and show love and mercy in all of our actions, that we will be witnesses of the Lord’s most Divine Mercy.

May the Lord show His infinite mercy to us on this day, that we who have sinned before Him may turn our back against our past and sinful lives, that we may take concrete and real steps towards full reconciliation with our God. O, most Divine Mercy and loving Jesus, forgive us sinners and bring us closer to Your most loving heart. Amen.

Sunday, 27 April 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Canonisation of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 19-31

On the evening of that day, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in His hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, the disciples were inside again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into My side. Do not be an unbeliever! Believe!”

Thomas then said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see Me, do you not? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of His disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believe, and you will have life through His Name!

Sunday, 27 April 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Canonisation of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 1 : 3-9

Let us praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His great mercy. In raising Jesus Christ from the dead He has given us new life and a living hope. The inheritance that does not corrupt nor goes bad nor passes away was reserved to you in heavens, since God’s power shall keep you faithful until salvation is revealed in the last days.

There is cause for joy, then, even though you may, for a time, have to suffer many trials. Thus will your faith be tested, like gold in a furnace. Gold, however, passes away but faith, worth so much more, will bring you in the end praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ appears.

You have not yet seen Him and yet you love Him; even without seeing Him, you believe in Him and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith : the salvation of your souls.

Sunday, 27 April 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Canonisation of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 117 : 2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His loving kindness endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

I was pushed hard and about to fall, but the Lord came to my help. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Joyful shouts of victory are heard in the tents of the just : “The right hand of the Lord strikes mightily.”

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it. This is the day the Lord has made; so let us rejoice and be glad.

Sunday, 27 April 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Canonisation of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 2 : 42-47

They were faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread and the prayers. A holy fear came upon all the people, for many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles.

Now all the believers lived together and shared all their belongings. They would sell their property and all they had and distribute the proceeds to others according to their need. Each day they met together in the Temple area; they broke bread in their homes; they shared their food with great joy and simplicity of  heart; they praised God and won the people’s favour.

And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Saturday, 26 April 2014 : Saturday within Easter Octave (Scriptures Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Today’s readings show us that we no longer have to fear or doubt in the truth of God. For if we stand by God and keep strong our faith, devotion and love for God, we will have everything and God will stand by us and provide us with all that we need. When we doubt, that is the moment of weakness which Satan can use to undermine our faith and our devotion to God, to the point that we may succumb to despair and commit things undesirable and wicked before Him.

This Easter, we celebrate the triumph of God over those who had arrayed themselves against Him, the celebration of the triumph of the good over evil, and the celebration of hope of new life over the old life, one that is decadent and filled with wickedness and sin. This Easter is a celebration of liberation and freedom, of mankind freed from the bonds of sin for eternity by the sacrifice of Jesus our Lord, and through whose resurrection we are made whole once again.

It is very difficult for mankind to let go of the temptations and impediments that were in place on our way towards God. It is very difficult for men to let go these goodness and pleasures that the world in particular are offering us daily. It is very difficult for many of us to let go of our desires, of our prejudices, of our judgments, and of our wants, for we are naturally, a creature tainted by the desires of this world and the desires of our flesh.

It is difficult for us to keep our faith in God, precisely because we are always tempted by sin, and at all times, doubt and fear are always in our minds. We cannot be truly close and intimate with God all because of our lack of total commitment and devotion towards the Lord, because we are unable to commit a hundred percent our attention and lives to God. Instead, we like to dwell in the world and be corrupted by the concerns and things of this world that inevitably lead us to sin.

That is why the elders of Israel, the chief priests, and those in the Sanhedrin of the people of God, supposedly the most learnt and the most educated of the people, opposed vehemently and firmly the presence and the works of God through Jesus, even though they naturally should have been the ones who would first welcome the Lord when He came. Instead, they became His enemies, and became those who attempted to derail the good works of the Lord by opposing in every situation and opportunities, the works of Jesus.

They failed to see reason and the truth of God in Jesus because their hearts had been hardened by sin, by the concerns of this world. Being people of influence and in the positions of power and privilege, they had forgotten their place and role in leading the people of God towards the Lord. Instead, they honoured power and glory, and craved for the people’s respect and praise towards them and did not tolerate any rival to their power and influence, leading to a vicious jealousy and hatred that grew so much, to the point that they even failed to see the truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, and ended up opposing and murdering the very One who would have rescued them from death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Easter, we are invited to throw far, far away all these impurities and unworthy behaviours as those that had been exhibited by those who opposed the works of Christ, in the Pharisees and the elders of Israel. We have this perfect opportunity to deny first ourselves, and then the desires of our flesh to seek the pleasures of this world over the approval of God. Let us not waste this golden opportunity to make ourselves anew and dedicate ourselves to a change for the better.

This Easter, let us remember, that the Lord had given His all for us, His love and dedication to the point of death. The cross! Remember always the cross, and how the cross is the ultimate manifestation of God’s love for all of us! And also the empty tomb! Remember that empty tomb, which signifies the victory that God had won for us, to liberate us from the certain defeat of death, and He who had won for us this new life, where we have no more need to fear from sin or death, but forever be filled with the hope of eternal joy in He who loves us.

May the Lord therefore guide us in this Easter season, as we grow stronger and stronger in our faith, and deeper in our devotion and love for God, that we will first always be faithful to Him, and then also be loving and good children and members of God’s family, always showing the Lord to be at the centre of our lives and actions. Let us follow the footsteps of the Risen Lord and His Apostles, and let us all bring the light of Christ to all the peoples, beginning from ourselves, and to those around us, and to the whole world! Let us share the joy of Easter! God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 26 April 2014 : Saturday within Easter Octave (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 9-15

After Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary of Magdala, from whom He had driven out seven demons. She went and reported the news to His followers, who were now mourning and weeping. But when they heard that He lived, and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After this He showed Himself in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. These men also went back and told the others, but they did not believe them.

Later Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven while they were at table. He reproached them for their unbelief, and stubbornness, in refusing to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

Then He told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.”